This feature was first published in Amrapali Magazine in January 2015.
The phrase Think Global, Act Local has been in use for different prospects of planning, societal aspects, tourism, business, etc. With this perfect thought, public and private sectors have joined hands with UNESCO for the development of marketing strategies and organizational matters along with cultural industries.
The project titled as Paralelo 9XM, keeping in view promoting the nine cities of Mexico: Chihuahua, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, Tijuana, Mérida, Tlaxcala, Pachuca, Toluca and San Pedro Cholula. The title delivers a powerful statement that the goal of strengthening cultural and creative industries in Mexico starts at the local level. This project was launched in 2013, by National Conference of Cultural Municipal Institutions (CONAIMUC) with support from UNESCO’s International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD).
Mayté Cordeiro, Director at CONAIMUC remembers an instance: “In the city of Mérida, we decided to hold a very specific workshop, designed to bring local public authorities and local entrepreneurs together in one room. The goal was to encourage them to debate and express their needs, points of view and opinions. They discussed. They argued. They exchanged. And in the end, what came out of it was the creation of a specialized office in Mérida to help entrepreneurs in a variety of aspects, from revising a business project to providing advertising media spaces for a product or service. For the first time, entrepreneurs and local government were working together. And that’s great not just for the city of Mérida, but for the whole region of Yucatán.”
Ramón Antonio Gil Ramírez, Pachuca, former Director of Culture turned entrepreneur, has been a clear winner of being part of the Paralelo 9XM. He proudly states that “This project has helped local authorities understand the role culture plays in local development processes. And that’s absolutely vital to strengthen the relationship between both sectors because it ignites changes and investments on a structural level, which, in the long run, can generate more opportunities to improve the quality of life in Hidalgo.”
The project has been influential to people and the cultural industry at various levels. In some cases, it has been equally beneficial to the public sector. José Juan Espinosa Torres, the Mayor of San Pedro Cholula enthusiastically arranged a workshop and unbelievably it scored the highest number of registrations. He then launched a public policy of assuring permanent and constant consultancy for local entrepreneurs and invest around half a million US Dollars in the capacity of Arts and culture. He says, “Culture is a universal right and projects like this will help San Pedro Cholula.”
In other cases, Miguel Ángel Mier Delgado, Director of the Municipal Culture Institute in Guadalupe after participating in one of the Paralelo 9XM workshops, initiated a public policy to help designers, advertising professionals, scenic artists and art galleries professionalize their businesses. This concept led to the emergence of ‘Mercadito Culturoso’ - an unprecedented local initiative for artists to exhibit and promote their products in markets. Mr. Mier Delgado mentiones that, “The ‘Mercadito Culturoso’ has been a great success, in that it represents a way for creators and artists to generate income for themselves, which in turn boosts the local economy in Guadalupe.”
Likewise in Cameroon, the Research Centre for Peace, Human Rights and Development (REPERID) designed a project named as “Decentralization, the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and Local Policies: a new paradigm for local development strategies in Cameroon” in support from UNESCO’s International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD).
Mbuagbaw E. Peter, the coordinator at the REPERID, says that, “On the one hand, most councils in Cameroon still don’t recognize the potential of culture in promoting multidimensional, sustainable development. On the other hand, the few councils that do recognize this potential, lack the knowledge about the legal framework of laws related to the link between culture, council policy and development. And then, there’s also the fact that cultural actors and stakeholders are neither included nor involved in policy formulation and implementation at the local level”.
This project is conceptualized in a step-by-step process. The first is to help councils learn about the potentiality of culture in local development and understand the role they play in guaranteeing that such a role be fulfilled. Regarding this, the REPERID organized 10 advocacy meetings, five in French and another five in English and it ended up reaching up to a total number of 200 cultural actors and Council executives.
When all councils were on a level to understand the relationship between culture and development, they are equipped with the required legal knowledge to realistically use culture as a tool to promote economic growth and social development. And for this, the project offered 2 capacity-building workshops to 90 Mayors, Councillors and Secretaries-General of Councils in the North West (Anglophone) and West (Francophone) regions of Cameroon.
Lastly, to create a way for the private and public sector to work together in the formulation and implementation of local policies. The REPERID then identified key stakeholders from both sectors and organized them in a database (which was expected to reach a total of 900 registered members but ended up with almost 2000). This database eventually led to the implementation of the NECAs (Network of Cultural Actors), a networking platform where cultural actors are now directly linked to council executives in each municipality.
Such a ground-level commitment to making local things go global and bringing in profits for the stakeholders is something that many countries can think to implement it. The CONAIMUC’s idea implemented towards the benefit of local policies in support of cultural industries counted on the participation of around 715 leading cultural managers and 443 directors of the Culture Department of City Councils. There is immense positive potentials in the local areas that altogether led to the nation’s cultural development and through such local development, policies rose the stakeholders as well.
Wanchia John Ngwa, President of Disability Welfare Rehabilitation Movement (DIWEREM), an NGO based in Bafut says that, “The project implemented by REPERID has guided our local council in bringing together, for the very first time, various participants with diverse cultural backgrounds. By exchanging experiences with these other cultural actors, we realized the need to create a place to exhibit and commercialize our products. That resulted in the creation of the DIWEREM Craft Café Restaurant, which has become a great source of income for us. So, we went from producing art to actually starting up a business. And this would have never happened if not for the help from REPERID.”